First Impressions: Boku no Hero Academia
Culture fusion has some of the strangest, most interesting results. Take Boku no Hero Academia: it merges superheroes and hero culture (a distinctly Western thing) with shonen storytelling (a distinctly Eastern thing) to come up with the closest thing to a dream anime I'll probably ever get. Academia follows Izuku Midoriya, a young boy who dreams of becoming a hero in a world where the vast majority of the world have developed "quirks", unique special abilities that...look, they're superpowers, okay? The catch? Izuku is one of the small percentage of humanity left that hasn't developed a quirk...and there's "no" hero that exists without some form of power.
Enter All Might--the world's most popular superhero, and Izuku's idol. After being saved by All Might, Izuku asks him a question that changes his life: is it possible to become a hero without a quirk? The way All Might helps Izuku, leads to him joining the legendary Yuuei Academy, a school where kids are trained to use their quirks to become heroes.
Academia is one of Shonen Jump's newer manga, and probably the closest thing to the next Naruto or Bleach that they've seen in years. For good reason too--creator Horikoushi Kouhei has used his knowledge of American superheroes to create a world with tons of depth, with unique heroes and villains that have wildly imaginative powers. And while most people make fun of shonen anime and how it usually develops, the genre matches perfectly with a premise like this and gives the characters tons of heart--"giving it your all" and fighting not only to protect your friends but everyone around you might not be something you want to see from a world of ninja, or pirates, or "death gods"--but it damn sure should be what you want from your heroes. And while I have a feeling this manga will end long before it should, Horikoushi could keep writing something like this for years and I wouldn't be the least bit upset. But none of that matters if they can't get the adaptation right, so how is it?
Perfect. Japanese animation companies never cease to astonish me how well they can bring an artist's style to life, as the characters look like they jumped right off the page thanks to BONES' beautiful work. And while the first episode doesn't cover much, the pacing is perfect--covering Izuku's excitement at wanting to be a hero how it feels when those feelings are crushed when he discovers he won't ever develop a quirk, and his resolve at deciding to be a hero even in the face of that knowledge without the show ever seeming rushed or even too slow.
Even the music is excellent. Usually, I don't even notice a show's OST unless it's from Shinichiro Watanabe series, but Academia's songs manage to enhance the emotional beats in ways that actually brought me to tears a few times over the course of the episode. (A little embarrassing, since I was watching this in public.)
It's my hope that Academia becomes this season's One Punch Man/Attack on Titan/Sword Art Online, and garners the popularity it deserves. This series is so good, Horikoushi should be able to end it when he wants to, and not a chapter before.
Second Episode Thoughts: So. Many. Tears. MHA isn't really a tearjerker type of show, but the first chapter had a lot of emotional beats to cover in order to position Izuku to be someone that could actually *matter* in the hectic world of quirk users--from Izuku's initial rejection from the Hero World by doctors, family, and even former friends, until he finally shows off a level of guts that can only be described as "stupid(ly heroic)", and earns the right to the secret of All Might.
Having said that, the show's already pushing a neat generational aspect--Izuku is affecting All Might the same way All Might had affected him all his life, pushing All Might to even greater heroic heights.
The sign of a great adaptation is when even the followers of the manga are eager for the next episode, and I can't wait to get past the "training" and get to the cool parts of the series.